If you’ve ever taken time to notice this, as I have: it’s unfortunate that we don’t realize all the things we should have said to a loved one until they are gone. The time right after their passing is particularly difficult because the feeling of their loss is new, and those days are quiet and filled with sadness. We sometimes feel regret and guilt about what we should have said or done when they were alive. These emotions provoke us to remember memories and help us relive them through nostalgia, providing us with a greater appreciation of these memories as we reflect on what they truly mean in our lives. It’s just unfortunate that in our fast-paced lives, we don’t have more time to express to our loved ones just how important those memories were.

In the recent passing of my grandfather, the patriarch of my family, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on his life, how important he was to us, and how much he loved me as I loved him. It was not until sitting with him, while he was in a coma on his last day of life on Earth, that I found the words to say to him that I had not said before. I cried and told him, “You were right. You were right about everything.” I wished that he would wake up from the coma and respond, but he did not. He was still unconscious, but I hoped that he had at least heard my words and felt my presence with him.

My grandfather began his life in a humble village in the Italian region of Puglia, but his ambition brought him to many different places, living in Rome, New York, and Florida. He was a hard worker and became successful in business, but his greatest accomplishment was his family (and a very large family we are). He was very proud that he provided the foundation for the success of his descendants. He loved us and was happy to see our family grow. As he would say, “We always want to see the next generation be better than us,” and I couldn’t agree more with him.

I grew up across the street from my grandparents. I was in their house almost every day, so I have many wonderful memories of them. As I think of my grandfather and my childhood, I remember so many things like how he bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride it, his tomato garden, and how he loved espresso and would let me drink “just a little,” as he would say.

As I grew older, our conversations were more serious, but I still enjoyed them. Grandpa had lived a life full of experiences that provided him with wisdom, so he had a lot of advice to share with me. Sometimes the advice was difficult to hear, so in these moments, I would stay silent and listen. However, he was always able to read through my silence, understanding that I may have been hurt, but that was not his intention. He would then tell me that he was only saying these things because he loved me. The longer I live life, the clearer it becomes how right he was about everything, but unfortunately, I realized it too late and didn’t have the chance to tell him while he was alive.

Though this is a conversation I never had with him, I’d like to think he is reading this from up above. This is not our last conversation as he is still very alive in my heart. It’s just like when he used to say ciao with a smile at the end of a long summer day of playing in his backyard, knowing we would see each other the next day, so it was never a real goodbye.

Grandpa, I know you are still here, but now I listen to you with my heart.